Starting out in sales can be scary. You need to find quality leads, make connections, close deals, and it can feel like there should be some secret formula to do it all; like if you say the magic word, every lead will turn into the perfect client. But you can’t spend your entire career working out of fear.
Finding your footing can be difficult enough in a cut-throat industry like sales, but couple that with some less than sage sales advice and it can be a down-right scary situation. We’ve all received well-intentioned but bad advice at some point, and I’m sure you’ve never forgotten it because bad advice sticks with you, like a cobweb in a doorway.
Since it’s October, and there is an eeriness in the air, I asked some sales pros to tell me the WORST sales advice they’ve ever received. Get your treat bags ready.
Worst Sales Advice
Just imagine everyone you’re pitching naked; it will take away your nerves.
Mary Nichols- Account Director, Murmur Creative
“There are few people in this world that I would ever care to see naked,” says Mary. “Thinking of potential clients sitting naked around a table makes me want to vomit versus helping my nerves.”
Obviously, Mary hasn’t used this sales advice, because even if you’re picturing Brad Pitt in place of who you’re talking to, it’s just plain weird. It creates an awkward and unpleasant image of your potential client in your mind and can end up distracting you when you need to be focused.
If you’re nervous about an upcoming sales pitch, practice it in front of friends or colleagues. Preferably ones who are clothed.
Do what you need to do to get the sale.
Amy Sears- Sales, Proposify
“It’s just wrong for so many reasons, and I think it’s why sales can have a negative connotation,” says Amy.
The last thing you want is for your prospect to feel that you don’t care at ALL about them, their needs, or their pain points and that all you do care about is making your commission. Push a client too far, and you’ll put a bad taste in their mouth that will stick with them for years. Instead, focus on building a relationship with them. Understand their needs, their goals, and any issues they’re having that your product or service can solve.
Keeping clients’ needs in mind will avoid perpetuating that negative stereotype of the pushy salesperson, and can lead you to more prospects in the future from recommendations.
Thankfully, Amy didn’t actually use this sales advice, because she’s smart, and knew it doesn’t help build a relationship between her and her client.
"From bad leads to bad advice, sales can be scary. Don’t believe everything you hear and find a mentor to guide you."
Fake it ‘til you make it.
Matt Buckenham- Senior Director Business Development, FCV Interactive
“It just shows a complete lack of authenticity and is doomed to fail as your blind spots are revealed,” says Matt.
It didn’t take Matt years of experience to realize this was some of the worst sales advice he’s heard because for him, showing vulnerability through sharing your weaknesses is a strength.
People can smell bull**** from a mile away. They want to be able to trust you, and if they think you’re deceiving them, they definitely won’t.
Opening yourself up to your clients helps build trust, and shows them the experiences you’ve had. Maybe something you reveal is similar to a pain point they have that you can empathize with.
Throw your beliefs out the window to make the sale.
Ryan MacDougall- Sales, Proposify
“Reputation is everything,” says Ryan. “If you want your clients to trust you, they need to know they can believe what you’re saying, and that you’re consistent with them.”
It’s hard to shake a bad reputation, so it’s best to avoid getting one at all costs. Speak to your clients with honesty, integrity, and manage their expectations. Even if what you believe, or say, doesn’t make them happy, they will have more respect for you because you were honest.
Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
Scott Tower- Sales, Proposify
“Maybe it’s not the ‘scariest’ sales advice ever, but if you don’t recognize when the timing isn’t right for a prospect, you might lose a sale by trying to force a client’s hand when they aren’t ready,” says Scott.
It takes time to find your stride, and you need that to build the confidence to recognize opportunities, communicate clearly, adequately prepare for first conversations, and follow up with leads.
Recognizing when to push a client and when to back off will help you gain more clients over time, and build stronger relationships with the prospects you reconnect with. Remember, no doesn’t mean no forever; sometimes it means ‘not right now.’
All of the people who just explained the less-than-great advice they’ve received wouldn’t still be in sales if they had followed what they were told – they know the good apples from the bad ones.
Poison apples and advice aside, let’s hear what these sales professionals have to say about the best sales advice they’ve received, and how they apply it.
Best Sales Strategies
Mary’s best sales advice:
Speak more about your client than about your agency. Talk about how you can solve their problems, not just about how competent and amazing you are.
“If a client comes to you, they’re experiencing a challenge they want to overcome, and they want to hear your solutions. They’ve likely already done some research about your company before reaching out, so don’t waste their time explaining who you are and what you do. Instead, focus on them, and allow them to do most of the talking.”
Mary’s Little Pro Tip: Research all your potential clients online before meeting with them. You’ll be able to find little nuggets of information that might surprise them to hear, and it will demonstrate how well you know them during a pitch.
Amy’s best sales advice:
Never make assumptions about a client.
You know what they say about assuming - it makes an a** out of you and me.
“Instead of making assumptions, ask questions. A lead you think is ‘bad’ initially may turn out to be a great lead if you dig for the right information,” says Amy.
Ask open-ended questions to avoid making assumptions. It will allow you more room for follow-up questions, and won’t pigeonhole you into getting preset, yes/no answers.
Matt’s best sales advice:
Speak one word to their ten and become an expert in listening.
“Salespeople tend to have a need to drive the conversation, but you have to let that go and let your prospect do it instead,” says Matt.
What you’ll be able to take away when you start listening is honest information, and the answers you need to form a solution that works for your client.
Matt points out that there are some salespeople who are prone to over-sharing, feature-dumping, and believing whatever comes out of their mouth will help them close a deal. He suggests taking a step back and really listening because it’s the things you HEAR that affect outcomes.
Ryan’s best sales advice:
Be yourself, find sales techniques you’re comfortable with and use them.
“Everyone has a different style of selling,” says Ryan. “To really get comfortable in sales, you need to be yourself and stick to your style, rather than trying to replicate your co-worker’s method of selling.”
To figure out which sales techniques work for you, Ryan suggests approaching your prospects with the idea of solving a problem, instead of trying to pushing a product on them. Honesty will go a long way.
Scott’s best sales advice:
“Being prepared was something I learned while playing basketball,” says Scott. “I had coaches tell me that failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”
When it comes to sales, preparation is important. Without understanding your client, having some background information on their business, or even reviewing what you’ve discussed with them in the past, you can miss key talking points, and forget to bring up elements of your product or service that could impact their business.
Being prepared can give you bonus points because when you’re unprepared, it’s pretty obvious. If you’re going to do something, put in effort, prepare, and show up on time!
Put your sales fears to rest
Sales should get easier and more comfortable the longer you do it. To get stronger at your craft, take note of good sales advice, and document techniques that have worked for you in the past. They will be the building blocks for developing future sales strategies.
As is evident with the advice our sales pros received in the past, not everything you hear will valuable, so don’t believe ALL the sales advice you hear. To avoid the poison apples of “advice”, find a mentor you admire, trust, and can speak with about your personal sales journey. Not only can they serve as a great sounding-board, but they can also be a valuable connection to have in the industry.
Apart from getting bad advice, the only part of sales that should instill a bit of fear is setting up your client’s expectations only to let them down with a promise you can’t fulfill. If your product/service can’t meet their needs, don’t promise them that they can. Honesty will earn you more street-cred down the road.
Now, avoid walking-dead leads, and start adding full-size candy bar leads to your treat bag.